November 24, 2011
Leafs Locker: Kessel No. 1, still
By Terry Koshan, QMI Agency
With no National Hockey League games on U.S. Thanksgiving, Phil Kessel was assured of getting through the holiday as the top goal-scorer and points leader in the league.
The Leafs winger has 16 goals and 14 assists for 30 points in 22 games. Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers is second in scoring with 27 points, while James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins is second in goals with 13.
The Dallas Stars know what Kessel is capable of, even though they are going on film and advanced scouting reports. “A little bit, but not in depth,” Stars coach Glenn Gulutzan said. “But what a year he is having. We’re well aware of how well he has been and the speed he has, and that is going to be something we will have to match up against.”
Overall, Gulutzan said the Leafs’ speed could pose a problem.
“Most teams can come at us speed-wise,” Gulutzan said. “Toronto has their young guys, a lot of them in their lineup. Those young guys move and work and we are going to have to be ready for that on Friday.”
SAY IT AIN’T SO, JOE
Rookie centre Joe Colborne would be wise to soak up as much as he can during this stint with the Leafs. Once Mikhail Grabovski, who is about a week away from returning from a lower-body injury, is back, Colborne likely is bound for the Marlies.
“He has played okay in the games,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “He is not getting an extraordinary amount of ice time right now. He is filling in and he understands that. He has lots of stuff to learn. You don’t want to pull the bread out of the oven too early before it is baked. This is a chance for him to gather some experience, and take that when he probably goes back to the minors.”
Colborne has two points in three games and is averaging 10 minutes 52 seconds of ice a game.
TIME TO BOND
The Leafs had a suite at the Dallas Cowboys/Miami Dolphins game on Thursday afternoon for all players and staff on the trip. On Wednesday night, the players went out for dinner as one.
“Playing on the east coast, you don’t get those long, drawn-out trips too often like this one,” winger Joffrey Lupul said. “So it’s fun when you do get them. It’s good to do some fun stuff, but as soon as the wins stop, you stop going to football games. It’s a fun day, but we have to make sure we perform (on Friday).”
Winger Mike Brown, nursing a lower-body injury, has returned to Toronto for further evaluation. Brown has missed the past four games ... Lupul on playing the Stars: “They have a lot of new faces. They had that same core group — (Marty) Turco, (Mike) Modano, (Sergei) Zubov — for years. We don’t know too much about young guys like Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn, but they are good players.” ... Stars pest Steve Ott has scored the winning goal in each of his team’s past two games.